The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Sandra Cisneros is a Mexican-American writer, born in Chicago, Illinois in 1954. The House on Mango Street is Sandra Cisneros’ highly acclaimed debut novel, it was published in 1984. I first encountered her work as part of a collection of essays, A Tale of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation. I never finished A Tale of Two Americas. As I mentioned in my last review, I don’t like anthologies. I got bogged down by the quality and content of some of the essays. Reading this anthology was like picking out of a hat (in a bad way), I didn’t know what I was going to get when I started another essay, so I put it aside. I do recall enjoying Cisneros contribution even though I can’t particularly remember what her essay was about, so I purchased and recently read The House on Mango Street.

Firstly, if you are going to read this book, READ THE INTRODUCTION, context is important. Although this book is labelled as a novel, the style and format are quite different from what you would normally expect from a novel. The page of contents reads like an introduction to a short story collection, and so do the stories themselves, only the stories are connected. The stories are written from the perspective of a young girl, Esperanza, living on Mango Street. I think the word “snapshots” best describes this novel because in between these shots, things happen that are not caught on camera. It is up to the observer/photographer to decide what things, events or people are worth chronicling, and this can give the reader the sense that there is something missing from the story. It gets hard to remember who is who because the novel is not written in a linear format. In hindsight, I think that was really effective in embodying the point of view of a child. Even as children, we can identify the experiences that had a profound impact on us. Cisneros leaves it to us to ask why this particular memory? Cisneros also admits she was more of a poet when she was younger and this makes a lot of sense. Some of the stories are only a half a page long. There is a conciseness and a “read between the lines because I’m not going to tell you any more about this” to her writing.

In a summary I read, The House on Mango Street is considered a “coming of age novel,” and I’ve struggled to read “coming of age” novels since I came of age, but I see the appeal and importance of such books when you are coming of age. When I think about what kind of book I want to write, I think Cisneros format resembles something close to what I would like to write, but I also see the limitations. Similar to Vera’s Why Don’t You Carve Other Animals, I think the format makes the stories forgettable, there is nothing holding them together, I would give the book a rating of 6/10.